Thursday, June 10, 2021

Booknotes: Campaign for the Confederate Coast

New Arrival:
Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War by Gil Hahn (W 88th St Pr, 2021).

Citing figures documenting how porous the Union blockade was before the last major southern ports fell late in the war, some have argued that the blockade was not a cost effective use of military resources and did not have a major impact on the outcome of the war. Of the view that blockade running figures (ex. success rates in and out of specific ports) don't tell the entire story, others have more persuasively maintained otherwise. Joining this latter group, Gil Hahn's new book Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War asserts that the "Federal blockade of the Confederate coast during the American Civil War (1861-1865) did not cause the ultimate Federal victory, but it contributed to that victory to a significant degree."

From the description: In Campaign for the Confederate Coast "readers will learn the story of blockade running from a nuanced, all-points-of-view perspective. Without recounting hundreds of encounters between pro-Confederate blockade runners and Federal blockading forces, it traces the ebb and flow of events as the U.S. Navy, blockade runners, and foreign governments (primarily the British) all pressed for advantage. At first unable to detect blockade runners, the Federals developed tactics that made them increasingly effective at making captures, although they did not eliminate blockade running altogether until they captured the principal Confederate ports. And although blockade running sustained the Confederates' ability to continue the battle for four years, the effect of this economic warfare substantially weakened the armies upon which the Confederate assertion of independence rested."

As part of his advance praise of the work, historian Allen Guelzo opines that Hahn's book should be regarded as the "single best survey" of the topic. In addition to providing an overview of the blockade and its effects, the study "embraces ship and weapons technology, coastal forfifications, charts and data on coastal sailing vessels, even sailors' rations."

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